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ronwagn

China Threatens to Withhold Rare Earth Metals

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https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/28/china-amps-threat-curb-rare-earth-exports-us-trade/

This has been a known problem for decades. Why has America been so leaderless and careless on dealing with this problem? Is our mining industry rudderless? Are our investors inept? All of the above?

China amps up threat to curb rare earth exports in U.S. trade clash

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks during a welcome ceremony for Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

 

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(edited)

10 minutes ago, ronwagn said:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/28/china-amps-threat-curb-rare-earth-exports-us-trade/

This has been a known problem for decades. Why has America been so leaderless and careless on dealing with this problem? Is our mining industry rudderless? 

I believe it's a matter of have's and have nots. US doesn't have.

Australia is a distant second place. They are working to double their production. Even at that might get close to 20%  vs China's 70%.

There is one known country that could challenge China re rare earth metals.  However, it is very unstable.

 Ahfganistan. 

Edited by Falcon
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5 minutes ago, Falcon said:

I believe it's a matter of have's and have nots. US doesn't have.

Australia is a distant second place. They are working to double their production. Even at that might get close to 20%  vs China's 70%.

There is one known country that could challenge China re rare earth metals.  However, it is very unstable.

 Ahfganistan. 

Possibly one reason why we have spent so much blood and money in Afghanistan, but apparently with not many material benefits in rare earth metal. 

It seems strange that rare earth metals would be limited in such a way. My hunch is that we have not really looked for them in our hemisphere, Africa,  Europe, and elsewhere. I know, for a fact, that lithium is plentiful in California.

Edited by ronwagn
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1 hour ago, ronwagn said:

Possibly one reason why we have spent so much blood and money in Afghanistan, but apparently with not many material benefits in rare earth metal. 

It seems strange that rare earth metals would be limited in such a way. My hunch is that we have not really looked for them in our hemisphere, Africa,  Europe, and elsewhere. I know, for a fact, that lithium is plentiful in California.

The US used to produce all its own rare earth elements.  This stopped when China deliberately undercut the industry - something they've done to many US industries, using the same tactics every time. 

North America could easily produce all its own rare earth elements; it simply chooses not to.  If China turns rare earths into a weapon, I imagine that will be the final straw.  Either congress will act or Trump will use executive power to correct the situation.  Either way, China will lose its leverage. 

In the long run, demand for all elements will decrease as the concept of a "circular economy" takes hold.  Germany is ahead of the game in this.  Lacking indigenous sources of many elements, they "mine" those elements from trash.  Every consumer product imported into the country becomes a source of materials, dramatically reducing imports of critical elements.  Aside from the incredibly quantity of disposable electronics the US imports, there's a substantial supply of everything lying in landfills.  When prices justify it, these will be "mined" as well. 

Under Obama, China's threat would have resulted in immediate appeasement as Obama dropped trou and assumed the position.  Under Trump, China's threat will result in decisive, aggressive action to put China back in its place.  As long as the US has a competent leader, I wouldn't be worried about China. 

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  • Mountain Pass struggled to meet environmental standards, which included protecting the desert tortoise habitat. It had some wastewater spills previously, and spent millions trying to meet regulatory requirements. Ironically, China, once they went full-bore, wasn't restricted by any environmental standards
  • China drove prices down
  • China can mine, process, and manufacture rare earth-containing products (like neodymium magnets) in facilities proximate to one another and at low cost. It's hard to beat that competitive advantage which is why N-magnet companies in the U.S. had to create some type of China capability or go under.
  • Also see New OilPrice article: Can China's Rare Earth Monopoly Be Broken?
Edited by Sherrie Gossett
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Sherrie Gossett (posted above) has defined the parameters correctly.  There are large supplies of "rare earth" materials ready to be mined in the USA.  However, the Chinese simply go full-bore and leave the surrounding land a total disaster, stripped and wrecked, an environmental nightmare.  The costs of "doing it right" are not borne by the Chinese miners, who callously discard the land at the end of the mining cycle. 

There is nothing to stop the US from producing all the rare-earth metals it wants and needs, if more funds are spent in careful mining techniques.  Assuming either China cuts off supply or the US hits that with tariffs, either way the local supplies will come onto market  (plus supplies from other nations such as Australia).   China is totally replaceable.  Those grunts from Asia are empty threats. 

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